A three-game sweep of the Reds in Cincinnati over the weekend gives the Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68) the home field for their one-game National League wild card playoff with the Reds (90-72).
The Pirates will enter the 8:00 PM Tuesday game at PNC Park with three straight victories, and seven wins in their last 10 games. Cincinnati has lost five straight, and with the sweep that closed the regular season, the Bucs won the season competition with the Reds 11-8. But, the Tuesday pitching matchup will find Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano, who was 0-3 against the Reds this year, facing Johnny Cueto, who has a lifetime 8-2 record at PNC Park. Overall, Liriano is 16-8, and Cueto, who missed much of the season with injuries, is 5-2. Cueto replaces Mat Latos, who has a sore arm.
After their wins on Friday and Saturday, the Pirates’ regular season finale in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon meant nothing, and with manager Clint Hurdle resting most of his starters, the Bucs posted a 4-2 win. Jordy Mercer and Garrett Jones both homered for Pittsburgh, with Mercer’s homer coming on an inside-the-park effort. Mercer also followed his fourth-inning triple by scoring on a Josh Harrison base hit, while John Buck also drove home a run. Mercer finished with three of Pittsburgh’s 10 hits, and Harrison and Jose Tabata recorded two hits apiece.
Starter Brandon Cumpton (2-1; 2.05 ERA) earned the win by pitching five innings of scoreless, two-hit baseball. Kyle Farnsworth earned his second save.
Three of the Reds’ six hits and both of their runs came off Pittsburgh reliever Jeanmar Gomez. Backup catcher Corky Miller provided the highpoint of the Cincinnati offense with a two-run double in the eighth inning.
On Saturday afternoon, the Pirates slammed six home runs in an 8-3 victory that clinched Tuesday night’s home field edge. Neil Walker hit two solo shots, and finished with six homers in his final nine games. Pedro Alvarez tied Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt for the league lead with his 36th round-tripper. Andrew Lambo blasted his first Major League homer. Andrew McCutchen and Marlon Byrd also “went long ball” for the Pirates. Clint Barmes drove home his team’s other run. Byrd went 3-for-4, giving him six hits in the first two games of the series.
Brandon Phillips drove home two runs for the Reds, and Joey Votto knocked in the other.
Both starters failed to go a full five innings. That meant that Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton was once again unable to pick up his eighth victory. The win went to Vin Mazzaro (8-2; 2.81 ERA), the first of five Pirates relievers. Reds starter Bronson Arroyo (14-12; 3.79 ERA) was the losing pitcher.